Hawkeye Downs crowns 2016 season champions on final night

Jim Hanson takes titles in Sportsmen, Hobby Stock; Brian Gibson seals Late Model crown with race win

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CEDAR RAPIDS — He might not have won the final two main events of the season, but Cedar Rapids racer Jim Hanson wrapped up a pair of season championships Friday night at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.

The veteran racer competed yearlong in both Sportsmen and Hobby Stock on the quarter mile in Cedar Rapids, and was the man to beat from the first night onward. He amassed 14 wins total — eight in Hobby Stock and six in Sportsmen, winning on the same night four times — and was able to race stress-free to wrap up his championships Friday.

“It’s been a lot of fun; a lot of work,” Hanson said. “We do this just for the passion of racing, man. We need the cars, too. We were presented with this Hobby Stock thanks to D&S Disposal and we took advantage of it.

“The Hobby Stock set us up to run the outside in the Sportsmen car, stuff like that. It just gets us more laps. We’ve had some good years, but we racked up quite a few wins this year. It’s been a special year.”

Being able to race hard with two different classes was something that pushed him every week — even with fun and frustration mixed in.

What’s in store for next season has yet to be determined, but Hanson was soaking it in Friday night. While Sportsmen race-winner CJ Van Horn accepted his trophy, Hanson did a celebratory burnout and donuts that capped his and the track’s season.

“Hobby Stock has been a lot of fun. Sportsmen’s been a little difficult just because of some drivers, but it’s been good,” Hanson said. “You’ve got certain people running into you, trying to get you DQ’d every week. But other than that, the entire class, it’s a good class. It’s been a blast, honestly, all year.”

Three other track champions were crowned Friday night as well.

In INEX Legends, Kevin Korsmo finished off a second straight championship season, finishing third in the main event behind former Iowa Hawkeyes wrestler and national champion Mark Ironside and Rochester, Minn. Driver Will McCulley. Gerald Hall got the win in Hobby Stock.

Season champion Dallas Chandler came up a bumper short to Derek Parrott in Hornets, capping his third career track championship in that division in his first full season back after taking two off. Like Hanson, Chandler sealed his title with a burnout — only in reverse, thanks to Hornets being front-wheel drive.

“It does feel good to be back here, and it pays off if you put the work in,” Chandler said. “I get to race with a good group of guys, race all year clean and it’s been a great year for me.”

The only racer to cap off their season championship Friday night was Walford driver Brian Gibson, who picked up his fifth win of the season in Late Model.

Gibson captured his second straight season championship, and it marked a “dream come true” for a racer who competed for years hoping to win one and couldn’t — until the last two seasons. What’s more, he broke a tie with Griffin McGrath — who finished second — for the most wins this season in the division.

He did half a burnout — just enough to denote celebration, but also not enough to do any damage to the very-expensive high performance parts under the hood.

Championship excitement had to be shown at least a little, he said.

“I’ve got a lot of money in the car, so I didn’t want to tear it all up, but I just wanted to do a little spin there to get the crowd going,” Gibson said. “It was a culmination of a lot of things tonight.

“It’s been a dream come true. I was out here for quite a long time before I took some time off. We had a bigger field then and I probably wasn’t near as good a driver as I am now. It’s just bittersweet because we worked so hard back in the day and never got one. Now we come back and we’ve done back-to-back. It’s surreal; it’s great.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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